Effects of GDNF on retinal ganglion cell survival following axotomy

Vision Res. 1998 May;38(10):1505-15. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6989(97)00364-7.


Recent evidence suggests that approximately 90% of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) die by the process of apoptosis within 14 days of optic nerve transection. RGCs begin to disappear from the retina between 5 and 7 days postaxotomy when the highest percentage of RGCs show characteristics typical of apoptosis. A single intraocular injection of glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) given at the time of axotomy resulted in a delay in the initiation of RGC death and increased the densities of surviving RGCs at 7, 10 and 14 days postaxotomy. The mean RGC densities in GDNF treated retinas at 7 (2381 +/- 144), 10 (1561 +/- 117) and 14 (1123 +/- 116) days postaxotomy were significantly higher than that of controls (1835 +/- 82, 835 +/- 272 and 485 +/- 39, respectively). The loss of RGCs was paralleled by increases in TUNEL positive staining in control retinas and a lower percentage of TUNEL positive cells in GDNF treated retinas at 5, 7 and 10 days postaxotomy. These results suggest that GDNF is capable of promoting RGC survival following injury, possibly by interfering with an essential step in apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Axotomy
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Survival
  • Female
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Nerve Growth Factors / physiology*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Optic Nerve / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / drug effects
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology*
  • Time Factors


  • Gdnf protein, rat
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins